David Distenfeld’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap
Been awhile since I blogged a Monday themed puzzle. Usually I only hit up the New Yorker Monday toughie, but Sophia needed a sub so here we are. It’s a vowel-progression theme, with the short vowel sounds for A, E, I, O, and U changing but the consonant sounds remaining the same (with three different spellings!). We’ve got HONEY SACS (a term I’m not sure I’d ever seen before, clued via [Bee storage centers]) CASUAL SEX, football’s PICK SIX (no grasp of what this actually is, as it sounds more like an option for a lottery ticket), TUBE SOCKS , and “THAT SUCKS.”
Fave fill: YOGI BERRA, who I recently learned was actively involved in D-Day on two of those French beaches. A PR rep’s SPIN JOB. A POGO STICK for those who are “hopping mad,” in that they are just wild about hopping. SCOTUS, the acronym, not all the justices. Creatives Frida KAHLO and DR SEUSS. And SUNDIAL, because the puzzler whose NPL nom is Jeffurry recently posted a photo of himself trying to pry a sundial off its base so he could turn the clock forward an hour for DST; more like Jeffunny, amirite?
Four stars from me.
Scott Hall & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Who’s in Charge?”—Jim’s review
Theme entries are phrases that are synonymous with “be in charge” and are clued with respect to an appropriate actual (or fictional) boss.
- 20a. [Lead, like the commissioner of the NBA?] CALL THE SHOTS.
- 28a. [Lead, like the CEO of Levi Strauss?] WEAR THE PANTS. Hmm. This doesn’t feel complete without “in the family” or “in the house.”
- 46a. [Lead, like the head of Churchill Downs?] TAKE THE REINS.
- 55a. [Lead, like Colonel Sanders?] RULE THE ROOST.
Nice theme. Even though the one entry feels incomplete to me, it still gets plenty of hits as being idiomatic, even in its shortened form. So maybe it’s just me.
Four 12-letter theme answers leaves plenty of breathing room for the grid, and we’re treated to nice long fill answers like MISHMASH, “NAILED IT!,” and AP HISTORY. ST LUCIA, TAX TIPS, and ALLOWANCE aren’t bad either.
There was a sub-theme of breakfast drinks (OJS, JAVAS, and TEAS) in the NW corner that almost overstayed its welcome. All those plural entries felt awkward, but at least they were quickly gotten past. ROOD and SOAVE might be tough on a Monday, especially where SOAVE crosses proper name YVES.
Clues of note:
- 1d. [Well-financed grp.?]. OPEC. Oil “wells,” that is.
- 26d. [Game maker that first let players add their initials to a top scores table]. ATARI. Interesting bit of trivia. Was there ever any other option?
Nice puzzle and a fine debut for Jeff’s co-constructor. 3.75 stars.
Dan Caprera’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
Here’s a wish-I’d-thought-of-it theme: Broadway musicals! The revealer at 61A [Dazzling theater performance, and what the answer to each starred clue literally has] is SHOWSTOPPER, meaning that each theme entry ends in a Broadway show’s name.
- 16A [Vigorous effort] is ELBOW GREASE. Sing it with me now: “Summer days, driftin’ away, to, ah-ah, those summer nights.”
- 23A [“Last Week Tonight” host] is JOHN OLIVER. Perhaps I should say JOHN OLIVER!, as the musical has an exclamation point in the title.
- 38A [Winter transports with treads] is SNO-CATS. If you’ve seen the movie version of CATS, can you verify whether it’s as awful as the critics thought it was?
- 49A [Come out on top, but just barely] is WIN BY A HAIR. TIL that HAIR bills itself as “the American tribal rock love musical.”
I’m not sure I buy STOPPER as a clear indicator for “last word in a phrase,” but otherwise this is a fun theme with a pretty good grid to back it up.
Lisa Senzel’s Universal crossword, “Going Under” — pannonica’s write-up
No time this morning, so bare minimum:
- 17a/19aR [… detailed analysis … or a hint to what can follow the ends of 30-, 31-, 33- and 35-Down] DEEP | DIVE.
sky dive, swan dive, nose dive, high dive
If there’s demand, I can expand this précis this evening, but I suspect the ship will have sailed by then.
Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap
Thank you, Natan and editors, for cluing GOBLIN MODE with a clear description: [Id-embracing ethos, per a modern coinage]. The term was up for some “word of the year” honors for 2022, and I just didn’t grasp its meaning. If there’s more to it than this clue suggests, please explain further in the comments!
Lots of fresh fill today. My faves: COUGHS UP, LAGNIAPPE, LETTERBOXD, TONI CADE BAMBARA (maybe not “fresh” since she’s been a big name for decades), a cinematic CORNFIELD, ON SAFARI with a great clue ([Watching the big game, say]), INDIA.ARIE, OGLALA (my first time hearing that Crazy Horse is also called Tasunke Witko, which Wikipedia spells Tȟašúŋke Witkó), SPORTS REPORTERS, and a football pass that’s a LONG BOMB.
4.25 stars from me. Always a treat to find Natan’s byline on a Monday!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword–Matthew’s recap
Happy Monday! Brendan brings us a meaty post-ACPT grid that felt pretty smooth for 66 words, and tough in some of the shorter entries. I’m running late, so a bit perfunctory today:
Fave fill: KT EVENT, RAW EGG, CAREER POL, ADMINISTRIVIA, HEX KEYS, FOOD WEB.
Fave clue: [I liner?] for SERIF. I chuckle that my copy, printed from the XWORD app, is in a sans-serif font.
New to me: JJFAD — so new that JRS vs “SRS” in the cross could have been either to my brain, and AEACUS [Greek king who rules Hades alongside Minos and Rhadamanthos] is a doozy. BIRETTA as well, though in retrospect the cognate to “BERET” should have made me more confident.
It was lovely to see so many friends old and new at ACPT this past weekend. If I missed you, my apologies. A great time, as always, and already looking forward to working to next years’ tournament after a couple years of ramped-down solving on my end.
NYT: In football, when a defensive player intercepts a pass, he’s said to “pick it off”. So interceptions are also called “pickoffs” or just “picks” for short. If the intercepting player carries the ball all the way for a touchdown, he scores six points for his team. So it’s a “pick-six” – possibly the most exciting play there is.
“Possibly the most exciting play there is” – agreed. Certainly in the top six for me, anyway. And if I had to guess, I’d say this expression came from the lottery connection.
NYT: Fun puzzle for a Monday. It took me way too long to get YODA, despite the quote in the clue being a perfect example of what my husband and I call Yoda-speak.
It was nice seeing Jim Croce in the puzzle. I still have the Jim Croce LP’s I bought 50 years ago. I’ll have to dig them out and see if my turntable will cooperate. (It didn’t the last time I tried to use it.)
I had an older brother and three older sisters, so until I was about 13, most of the music I liked was stuff that one of them liked. Jim Croce was the first artist I discovered on my own, as it were. For that reason, his music will always be special to me. It’s a good thing it’s actually worth listening to.
I did the ACPT virtually this weekend, and it was a lot of fun! I completely bombed Puzzle 5, although it seemed more doable than that type of puzzle usually is. I was looking back through the history of the tournament, and I had a few questions:
– Does anyone know why the Junior prize was not given out in 1991? It says on the website it was omitted that year, but it doesn’t say why.
– Has anyone ever been in the Division B/C finals more than once? It would be a mildly unusual set of circumstances for that to happen.
– Has any rookie ever made it into the overall Top 10 besides in 2021, when both Paolo Pasco and Will Nediger did so? It seems that rookies are doing better and better, and they are now kind of dominating Division C. This year, 9 of the top 11 Division C scores were by rookies, including all 3 finalists. That might settle down if traveling patterns stabilize.
– Does anyone actually WANT to sit in the “other” ballroom? I imagine it feels like you’re off in some afterthought, but maybe that’s wrong. I’ve never been to the in-person tournament.
Speaking to the last question, I sat in the other ballroom by necessity on Saturday (ballroom filled up early) but by choice on Sunday (couldn’t leave what I called my lucky spot). I liked the vibe! Missed the classic Will Shortz announcements, but it feels lower-pressure to be solving in a smaller room
Paolo, thank you for your reply! There’s something to be said for being in the quieter place! And if you are Paolo Pasco, it clearly paid off for you – congratulations!
To your second question, I competed in the B finals in 2019 against Arnold Reich, who had previously been in A and been reclassified to B after seven tournaments without an “A” award. (He had also made the B Final in 2005, against Team Fiend’s Stella and Amy!) That’s probably the most likely scenario, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other examples, especially since the waiting period in B and C is three years, versus seven in A.
– In addition to Arnold Reich having done it, Fiend emeritus Doug Peterson finished 2nd in the B finals in 2008, then won the B finals in 2016 after the previously referenced stint without an A-division award. There may be more instances of this, but those are the two I know of offhand. I’d think it’d be quite rare to make a C finals, then go three years without finishing in the top 20% of the field (for reference, this year’s C finalists were all in the top 8% of solvers). By contrast, plenty of B finalists never quite crack the top 10, so reversion to B after seven years is relatively common, and those folks have all already proven they can finish atop the B division.
– 2021 was an annus mirabilis for rookie solvers, since the virtual format made ACPT accessible to a lot of folks who might not otherwise be able to attend. I could only find one other top-10 finish by a rookie: Bob Mackey, who finished 6th at his first tournament in 1998. Hopefully that stat is heartening to rookies—almost nobody conquers Puzzle 5 on their first try! (I myself put up a whopping 440 points on my first Puzzle 5 in 2011, en route to a 169th place finish.)
Matt and Andy, thank you for your replies and your insights! I guess seven years isn’t as long as it sounds, particularly since several contestants have done well for longer than that — Andy, you’re a good example of that phenomenon! And congratulations on your #1 finish for the virtual solvers! My own Puzzle 5 score this year was not a whole lot different than your 2011 one, so I will take heart that things can be brighter in the future!
NEW YORKER: Does anyone know if Kameron Austin Collins is no longer part of the New Yorker line-up? The last two KAC puzzles covered here were in the NYT. His last New Yorker puzzle was on October 22nd, 2022, I think… I really enjoy KAC’s tough Monday New Yorker puzzles and miss them. Any info? David
New Yorker: I found the clue for GOBLIN MODE far from “clear” and disliked the puzzle even more when I read the definition assigned the term when it was designated the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2022: “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.” [And I will refrain from commenting on the misuse of “which” in the definition, which I hope will please those who might otherwise accuse me of pedantry.]
I’m with you, man. Anti-goblin bigotry is intolerable.
I found the clue unenlightening too — I’ve heard of the expression without having any idea what it meant. But the puzzle overall was pretty user-friendly, I thought.
I’ll never know if anyone liked my frog joke.
OK, I’ll bite… what frog joke?
The one about “Frog-kissing outings?”? Yeah, kind of cute… been there, done that…
Although I didn’t get why you put “deep” in the revealer… just plain “dive” seems to be enough. Fun puzzle. Thanks.